On a sunny Pasadena day, the interior of the historic Stuart Pharmaceutical building was refreshingly cool even as the sun filtered in from the building’s distinctive milky white Persian inspired lace-like facade.
Backlit by this glow, Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx enthusiastically explained A Noise Within’s diversity directive: Noise Now. In-person, Muñoz-Proulx is warm and welcoming with a quick smile and a disarming eagerness to listen and share possibilities.
Since he was hired last fall to be the director of cultural programming for Noise Now, the Southern California native has been reaching out to local community organizations. ANW’s managing director, Michael Bateman, said Muñoz-Proulx has been in touch with more than 300 organizations. The program launched in February and has brought in over 800 audience members. Some of these programs have been as intimate as 15 people while others have attracted 250.
ANW has been recognized for its high-quality classical theater productions since the 1990s. Under two of its three original founders, the husband-and-wife team of Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott, ANW moved from the Masonic Temple in Glendale to a state-of-the-art, 324-seat performing space in Pasadena in 2011. Now well-established in the Pasadena community, ANW continues to expand.
“We see Noise Now as our commitment to being of service to all audiences,” Rodriguez-Elliott explained. “It also presents a wonderful opportunity to animate our campus by presenting art in nontraditional spaces throughout A Noise Within.”
According to Bateman, Noise Now came about when the house of the mouse squeaked some advice. Bateman said it was discussions with Disney Imagineers that set these plans into motion. ANW was challenged to consider that for the community, “theater didn’t have to be their primary access point” and that ANW could become “a hub where art happens.”
So enter center stage the Muñoz-Proulx. Graduating from USC, School of Dramatic Arts, he also served as an adjunct faculty to the USC MFA in acting program. Muñoz-Proulx previously served as an associate producer at the Skylight Theatre and as an artistic assistant at East West Players. He has also worked for Center Theatre Group and Pasadena’s Boston Court Theatre and is on the Latinx Theatre Commons National Advisory Committee. Like many transplants to Los Angeles County, Muñoz-Proulx wanted to be an actor, but realized he was more interested in “choosing the stories I was telling.”
Being of Mexican and French heritage, in college, he had another realization.
“I began to understand my role and responsibility to illuminate underrepresented communities,” he said.
Yet at times, he’s found himself “tokenized” as a “cultural ambassador” when he was contracted to direct the one Latino-themed play within a season. “I accepted that because it got me in the door.”
With Noise Now, he’s opening the door to the Pasadena community by offering dance, music, art exhibits and bits of nontraditional theater. Structured in “semesters” because many organizations aren’t ready or equipped to commit to a year-long initiative, in its first semester, Noise Now took on the topics of mental illness, black identity, transgender identity and water in Latin America.
Muñoz-Proulx explained that instead of offering what one thinks the community needs and be trapped in a “savoir complex,” Noise Now works on the concept of “consensus organizing.”
While Bateman spoke of “cross-pollination” between ANW and its Noise Now partners, Pasadena’s theater community has already been inspiring each other. Muñoz-Proulx credited Seema Sueko, who came to the 647-seat Pasadena Playhouse in 2013, for bringing the concept of consensus organizing to his attention. Consensus building is “asking the community what type of plays” and other presentations they want to see and “accepting accountability as an institution” for asking and producing results. In his outreach to local organizations, he asks, “Where’s the overlap in our missions?”
For the fall, the answer lies in Ibarionex Perello’s “The Three-Fifths Project” photo exhibition (now through November 16), Josh Gershick’s staged reading of “Dear One: Love & Longing in Mid-Century Queer America” (October 13), the Diwali Festival of Lights block party with the Bollystars Dance Company (October 26), a staged reading of a feminist adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” (November 17), a staged reading of a play based on the myth of Daedalus and Icarus (December 7), a Latina Christmas Special presented with the Latino Theater Company. (December 9), staged readings from Wicked Lit’s repertoire (December 15) and a staged reading generational trauma—“Ballad of Haint Blue” presented with the Pasadena Mental Health Advisory Committee & Project Sister Family Services.
All events are pay what you choose. For more information, call 626-356-3100 or visit anoisewithin.org/noisenow.